Jaelyn Faye learned 2-ton pavement rollers can do more than level streets. They can be used to create intricate works of art.
The 8-year-old, who was in town visiting her grandmother, Janet Anderson, watched as the Sebastopol Center for the Arts transformed its parking lot into a printing press Sunday for its third annual Street Printing Festival.
Artists and volunteers laid out onto a large wooden board hand-carved linoleum blocks covered in black rubber-based ink. They then carefully placed white printmaking paper on top of the blocks and covered them with two thick blankets before blowing a horn, instructing the roller operator to turn on the engine and glide forward onto the board.
Dozens crowded around to see the art unveiling. They cheered as volunteers gently peeled back the blankets and finally the paper, imprinted with dark and detailed images of chickens, cats, cars and geometric figures.
“I like how they print,” said Faye, of Silver Springs, Maryland, impressed by the process.
“It’s pretty cool,” her grandmother confirmed.
The event did pique an interest for Faye, who has been painting since she was 2. She approached Sebastopol printmaker Rik Olson during the festival to ask about the process and how many prints can be made from a single carving.
“Hundreds,” responded Olson, who has been printmaking for five decades.
They only planned to print a handful from each design on Sunday, he said. More than two dozen artists from Sonoma County and the Bay Area participated in the festival, selling their prints to raise money for the art center’s visual arts program.
Last year, they raised about $5,000, said Olson, who hand-carved two different blocks for the festival, one of a chicken and another of an old car.
“Hopefully, we’ll come close to double (that) this year,” he said.
Eric Johnson, board president of the North Bay Letterpress Arts, a nonprofit printing press shop in Sebastopol, manned the roller. A poet, Johnson said he started letter press printing years ago to put together his books.
“I got addicted,” he said. “I had poetry books I wanted to print. I learned the trade to print my books.”
Olson has helped organize the festival for the past three years. He said Catherine Devriese, the Sebastopol center’s visual arts director, approached him about the event after attending a similar one hosted by the San Francisco Center for the Book, which he’s taken part in since its inception 13 years ago.
Devriese said there are a lot of printmakers in Sonoma County. Not only does the festival bring artists and book lovers together to celebrate the printed word, she said it also teaches the public about what goes into the printmaking process and the different methods.
She expected the event to draw at least 500 attendees. It included live music, food, art vendors and printmaking activities for kids. About a half-dozen kids gathered around a table at the Riley Street Art Supply booth, where they carved designs into small, soft, cork rubber tiles to make miniprints.
Nearby, Sebastopol artist Sally Briggs invited children and other attendees to work on a relief print. They used paper, cardboard and foam cutouts to decorate the large board, which she planned to coat with black ink and press with the pavement roller.